Iran's parliament says it has launched a probe into a blogger's death. The country keeps hundreds of opposition figures in custody, among them politicians, journalists and lawyers.
Activists say Iranian authorities tortured Sattar Beheshti to death for criticizing the regime. Opposition groups say that his family was asked on November 7 to collect his body from the Kahrizak detention centre in Tehran, where he had been held since being arrested at the end of October after criticizing the government.
"The national security commission is aware of this case and has begun an investigation," Deputy Parliament Speaker Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi said. "I have asked the head of the commission, Aladin Borujerdi, to inform parliamentarians and the public once the investigation is completed," he added.
In the last blog he wrote before he was arrested, Beheshti said he was being constantly harassed by security services.
"Yesterday they threatened to tell my mother that she would soon be wearing black if I did not shut up," he wrote in one post.
'Must be explained'
Conservative member of parliament Ahmad Tavakoli joined the criticism, according to the news agancy Mehr.
"Why doesn't the judicial apparatus give explanations?" said Tavakoli, who represents Tehran. He charged that foreign governments had exploited the case for propaganda against Iran. "There has been a death and it must be explained," he said.
Tavakoli criticized the repression, saying Iran would do better "to fight against corruption rather than making life difficult for bloggers."
In the past, Iran's leaders have written off criticism of the country's rights record as politically motivated foreign propaganda. However, leaders have also taken action on other allegations of mistreatment of prisoners.
History of abuse
In 2009, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered the temporary closure of the Kahrizak detention center after three inmates died following mistreatment by guards. Several of its officials were prosecuted.
Referring to Beheshti, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program director Ann Harrision said: "Iranian authorities must immediately carry out an independent investigation into his death, including whether torture played a part in it."
"Fears that Sattar Beheshti died as a result of torture in an Iranian detention facility, after apparently lodging a complaint about torture are very plausible, given Iran's track record when it comes to deaths in custody," Harrison added.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Beheshti was "arrested for a crime no greater than expressing his political opinion online."
mkg/ipj (AFP, Reuters, AP)